John Wain built his reputation as a novelist in the 1950’s, his first novel being Hurry on Down (1953), which was published in the United States as Born in Captivity in 1954 and which was followed in subsequent decades by Where the Rivers Meet (1988), Comedies (1990), and Hungry Generations (1994). His further efforts include several volumes of poetry, criticism, and literary biography. Among his plays is Johnson Is Leaving: A Monodrama (pb. 1994). He also wrote Sprightly Running: Part of an Autobiography (1962) in which he declared, “I would be a short-story writer [over being a novelist] if it weren’t so impossible to make a living at it.”
An influential essayist, editor, critic, and literary biographer, Wain believes his poetry to be his most important literary contribution.